There’s nothing like a road trip to lift the spirits; beautiful views, restful days, discovering new places. But maybe you’re the sort of strange cookie who finds that a tad boring. You prefer your panoramic views with a few spoons of hair-raising adrenalin.
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What makes a road an adventure? Narrow gravel tracks perched precipitously on mountainsides certainly up the ante. As do roads so far away from civilization that taking survival supplies is mandatory. Then there are routes that you must time right, or you’ll wish you’d taken a boat instead.
The Road to the Himalayas
Altitude: 15,397 ft.
Fun fact: Highest paved road in the world
It's the road to paradise — if you like exploring the mountains, that is. It's also the road David Lama took on his way to climb Masherbrum, regarded as one of the world's hardest alpine climbs. Read all about it here.
The Road You Really Don't Want to Drive Off
North Yungas Road
Altitude: 15,256 ft.
Risk: going off the edge
The very good news about this dirt road is that you don’t have to take it. Back in the ’90s before an alternative and safer road was built, it was identified as the most extremely dangerous road in the world. Only thrill-seeking adventurers use it now. The thin road climbs jungle-clad mountains to a height of 15,256 ft., winding and turning all the while with nauseatingly deep canyons below.
Slide Over Ice
Where: Fairbanks, Alaska
Length: 2,185 ft.
Risk: You need to bring food and survival supplies
Feel like getting away from civilization? Then this is the highway for you. Few roads in the world offer the degree of isolation as The James W. Dalton Highway. Make sure you pack plenty of supplies because there are only three villages along this road through the wilderness. Linking Fairbanks and oil fields to the north, huge trucks are its main traffic. Giving them right of way is one of the road rules; the other is taking survival supplies and knowing how to use them.
Guoliang Tunnel Road
Why it's weird: a mere 13 feet wide through various tunnels
Risk: Fender benders
Probably one the most famous tunnels in the world, the three-quarter-mile-long, 13-foot-wide Guoliang Tunnel Road requires monk-like focus to drive. Even one mistake, locals say, means big trouble in little China.
Twist and Turn up the Tianmen
Tianmen Mountain Road
Number of turns: 99
Risk: Did you see the picture?
Located in China’s fantasy world-like Tianmen Mountain National Park, this road has 99 bends as it winds almost seven miles up to an elevation of 4,265 feet.
Altitude: 11,483 ft.
Risk: Altitude, livestock
This strip of rock is not the place for a Sunday drive. It’s better suited to a Mars Rover than any manned vehicle. It’s about five-and-a-half-miles long, over 11,000 feet above sea level and provides an important link between Ladakh and Kashmir.
The Rohtang Pass
Drivable season: May to November
The Rohtang sits at about 13,000 feet over India. It’s only open from May to November and is so dangerous that the Government of India is building a tunnel nearly five-and-a-half miles long as an alternative.
Take Your Truck for a Swim
Passage de Gois
Altitude: Sometimes three feet below sea level
Risk: Does your car have a snorkel?
Pack an inflatable boat for driving this 2.7-mile-long road, because if for some crazy reason you mix up the tide times, then — like vehicles in the past — you might disappear beneath the salty brine. Located on France’s Atlantic coast, the road floods twice daily with incoming tides and as the tides go out slippery seaweed is left all over it.
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